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​Unless experienced personally, mentoring and coaching is often undervalued and with that opportunities could be lost. Failing to recognise the importance of the practice can be costly for organisations and the individual, in terms of human capital and delivery of personal and organisational goals and ambitions.

To ensure you and your business capitalise on mentoring and coaching, expert on the topic, Bernadette Marjoram, shares her advice and insight.

So, what is Mentoring and Coaching? 

Mentoring and Coaching can be used in many ways and at many levels from Board level to senior executives to operational performance issues on a one-to-one confidential basis, although team sessions are also possible.

Where it works especially well is where there is a positive culture of support within the organisation, which seeks to ensure all individuals meet their full potential and thereby meet the organisation`s potential. Put simply, what is good for the individual is good for the organisation.   

Currently, COVID-19 has brought a new set of challenges, which has and will continue to require building individual and organisational resilience and changes to working practices, whether that is delivering services or being economically adversely impacted by the Pandemic.

Mentoring and Coaching can provide support to the COVID-19 challenges, as more people are either facing job reconfiguration, job loss, or having to work remotely (a practice that’s highly likely to be significant part of the ‘new normal`). In future, all these challenges can be supported positively by appropriate Mentoring and Coaching approaches.

Invariably, alongside addressing strategic and operational professional delivery concerns, there will be personal issues and challenges, which can complicate and interfere with an individual’s focus on performance, delivery and future direction.

These blocks can close down personal and organisational possibilities which Mentoring and Coaching can address.

Often, when beginning a mentoring or coaching relationship, the issues originally thought to be the ‘problem’ are not, but rather symptomatic of other issues that emerge during the sessions.

I am reminded of two examples;

Case Study 1. A senior officer whose performance, without obvious reason, had suddenly dipped with an associated lack of motivation to the point where capability proceedings were going to be initiated – this is where mentoring and coaching came in.

Through a number of sessions, I established the underlying problems were, in fact, personal with resultant considerable financial worries. So, by addressing this personal situation, the senior manager was able to address the personal issues and get back on track. After feeling re-motivated achieved a promotion and was able, once again, to deliver the organisations and personal objectives – a ‘win-win’.

Case Study 2. A very senior, long-standing and successful legal executive, who wanted to stay in their role but felt the need to challenge themselves by taking on a Non- Executive (NED) role, found after many applications, was failing to make the shortlist for roles they were clearly qualified for.

This led to a loss of motivation and self-esteem which had an impact on their hitherto successful career. They were on the verge of giving up – this is where mentoring and coaching came in.

Through a number of sessions, I established this senior executive was, in fact, dyslexic. By working with them, they were not only successful in making a shortlist but were appointed to the next NED position applied for.

This provided a personal and professional achievement and also a positive refocus on work – a ‘win-win’.

These two different examples demonstrate how, with mentoring and coaching, the individuals were able to resolve their own challenges and by doing so, the respective organisational imperatives were met. Without mentoring and coaching, the individual and organisation would have been on a very different trajectory, which would have ultimately been costly, time consuming and non-productive.

Mentors and coaches have different approaches – my own approach  is “solutions focussed” building on what the individual already knows and does well, to create realistic steps and improvements towards their goals, as well as achieving their professional objectives, drawing on the individual’s own experience to focus on their future development.

Due to this approach, I mentor and coach successfully outside of my direct areas of professional knowledge and experience by helping the individual to focus on resolving their issues effectively through a range of techniques appropriate to their situation.

As part of my accreditation, I focussed on `distanced` coaching/mentoring as senior executives would have limited opportunity to have face-to-face sessions either because of geography and/or diary pressures but in these times of COVID-19, this has proved invaluable when remote working has become widespread. 

Sometimes, the outcome can lead to the mentee/coachee concluding they need a different role or change of direction – mentoring and coaching can assist in managing this in a constructive and positive way for the individual and the organisation. 

Whatever approach adopted, there are some key important steps for successful outcomes from mentoring and coaching:

1. Establish early rapport, which involves listening and achieving empathy

2.  Open and creative questioning and providing effective and honest feedback 

3. Being clear about the goals to be focussed on 

4. Action planning

Mentoring and coaching is a proven effective and focussed intervention as part of a positive working organisational culture and, especially now, at a time when personal and organisational resilience is needed more than ever, mentoring and coaching can provide a much-valued support, improve retention of staff and attract high-quality talent.

deverellsmith is hosting a pre-recorded coaching and mentoring Q&A with Bernadette.

Bernadette is an experienced and accredited coach/mentor with experience of coaching and mentoring at executive leadership levels in a wide range of organisations. Her main interests are working with individuals in transition, in new roles or facing major change or striving to deliver better performance. 

Bernadette is a serving Senior Interim Executive of 20 years, with also extensive Non-Executive experience